Current 09/2008

Funny Lines

I guess these questions will never be answered. No Nobel Prize Committees back then. With making fire we learned to manipulate the forces of nature, with our drawings we created our own universe. Making line drawings comes almost natural when we think. Some can only concentrate with a pencil in their hand. It is as if we need a visual manifestation of what goes on in our head to make it function better. To help our memory. Sometimes, the drawings are meaningless doodles, but more often they can be quintessential idea sketches that may become the basis of complete cities or scientific revolutions. Our writing and notation system are linear and so are for a big part the specifications we make for everything we produce. Even morally we are supposed to walk the line.

 

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In typography, lines have a formal and a semantic function, we use them to create order and hierarchy or make symbols with them. The most basic typographic lines are the horizontal lines we use to underscore text or to cross it out. Underlining is used to emphasise text, crossing out is to show what should be eliminated from a story. Some also use the double underscoring, but that is a bit bombastic, like talking too loud to compensate for uncertainty. Of course, these are all rather primitive ways of creating order and only justifiable for handwriting or using an old fashioned typewriter, but hardly anybody uses these ways of production anymore. Nevertheless, our computer has these primitive options and they are used. Old habits die hard, specially in professions that consider design a frivolity. (That is why primitive underlining was initially used to indicate hyperlinks)

A nice illustration of the above is the way we make currency symbols. The traditional way is to take a (capital) letter and to cross it with one or two lines to let it stand out from the normal characters. I always wondered why both variations are used, the dollar, the yen, the sterling, all appear in a version with one and with two lines. I have a theory about why that is: I think that when a currency is new, it gets two lines to emphasise its importance and stability, when it is established there is no longer a need for visual bombast, so one line is then enough. The proof is in the visual representation of the Euro symbol, finally the Euro is losing its silly double line hatch.

Lines also come in handy to create order, to direct the eye. Simple typography hardly need lines, tables often do, although the sport is to use as little as possible. Really complex typography, like newspapers need lined boxes. Also the complex graphic interface on our screen is practically inconceivable without using boxes.

But typography is not only a functional undertaking, the boxes needed for the graphic computer interfaces became an extremely important style item in typography, they were used even when there was no functional need for them. Boxed typography stood for the new digital age. Curiously, crossed out lines of text or words are popular these days. Out of the blue you see them used by designers and artists all over the globe. Visual styles are more pandemic than the bird flu. And no remedies, they simply have to die out. I have no clue why crossed out words became hot, all of a sudden. They are considered funny lines probably.

 

Becoming GOD

 

He copied me his letter and he said to me that he felt relieved, but that he was at the same time terribly afraid of becoming a GOD (a Grumpy Old Designer). Is this a sad and unjustified fear?

 

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Personal authenticity and personality is now higher valued that ever - although it is considered advisable to consult your PR person to check if your emotional eruptions fit with your identity before actually letting them out. So little should be in the way of expressing anything you feel like as long as it matches your own personal brand. Being grumpy is no problem, maybe becoming old is. Aging is often considered today not as a natural process but as the result of a sort of basic neglect, something that can easily be avoided by taking sensible precautions. The babyboom generation already embarrassed their kids by following the same fashion as they wear and also by mimicking their lifestyle. Wearing razor blades as earrings, piercing all kind of stuff in whatever part of your body left next to the tatoos. Pop and mom followed their offspring instantaneously in every silly twist of their minds. To be left alone and not copied, the poor kids had to escape to wearing ugly stuff that did not cover the parts of the body where aging is hard to conceal. Getting old is now a matter of underfunding your physique, or stupid behaviour.

Maybe the real problem is the God status. Artists, architects and designers love to be cuddled by this aura of having a sort of super-natural gift. Possessing a universal creative talent that provides unique insights and solutions to whatever problem. Not just being capable of doing a decent job in a very specific field. It's a professional brand identity that is almost impossible to escape. Clients and everybody else strongly believes that a divine touch is essential for a good result. (and so does some designers,which is a bit embarrassingly stupid). Nonetheless, this God status has some advantages, you can for instance give incomprehensible explanations with your designs and you will be forgiven. Everybody will believe that nobody will instantly comprehend fully the wisdom when a holy oracle speaks. Moreover, the semantic aspect of human communication is highly overestimated. I think that's where the real snag is for designers. Architects and artists can more easily become old Gods than designers. Designers fall for some reason more into the category of sport starts, one expects them to be young. I am not quite sure why this is the case.  But until this general expectation will change, becoming a GOD will be feared by most designers like being infected with the plague.

 

Updates

Thomas Couderc work updates

Thomas Couderc has updated their work, see it here.

Clément Vauchez work updates

Clément Vauchez has updated their work, see it here.

Alexandre Dimos work updates

Alexandre Dimos has updated their work, see it here.

Yu Guang work updates

Yu Guang has updated their work, see it here.

Alan Chan work updates

Alan Chan has updated their work, see it here.

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